Let’s start with an interesting exercise. Kindly lift your eyes off this page for a minute and take a look around you, be honest in your reply and ask yourself this question: do you feel inspired?
Your physical space will include where you wake up in the morning, have your breakfast, drive, go for your work out sessions and relax with friends and family. Our lives basically revolve around what happens in these places. The basic physical space that can be easily identified with is the home. Why is this relevant? I will tell you shortly, many people including myself at one point in our lives or even currently have submitted ourselves to the dictation of our physical space. In my own case, I didn’t realize that my inability to control my physical space influenced the results I got in my life.
How many of you feel burdened by your own personal space? I have frequently heard many people I have worked with and even clients describe their physical space as: boring, cluttered, blend, hideous, uninspiring. Many of these people did nothing about changing the situation; the common reaction was to blame it on the lack of time, money, poor creativity, or their partners. Is this really the best they could come up with? I asked myself this question, after acknowledging that our physical space has such an influence on our lives, I think it should become a priority to restore a good balance in the our level of connection to our physical space. It is important to create a positively influencing physical space if you want your life to become better: The reports from a 2009 study conducted by Darbe E Saxbe indicated that people who viewed their physical spaces as cluttered had higher levels of cortisol- a stress hormone than other people who tapped into their physical space for restoration and peace. The earlier group of people will also attest to their lives being unfulfilled and wishing there was more to what they were currently doing with their lives.
Does this mean that we should not allow mess in our lives? There are different perceptions of mess and disorder. The book-“The Perfect Mess” written by Eric Abraham and David Freedman explained that the extent of mess and disorder is dependent on the place and the angle of observation of the space. They also proposed that an attempt to measure the extent of mess in a place will require taking into consideration the width, depth and scale of the environment. Furthermore, the reports from a study carried out by Kathleen Vohs in the SAGE journal(2009) proposes that physical order promotes healthy choices, generosity and conventionality while disorder promotes creativity. The main idea here is that there is no strict pattern to be used in creating mess or being orderly. It all depends on the level of creativity that you can come up with to improve your physical space.
There are numerous ways to achieve this. I will highlight a personal experience as an example. This happened during my working career as a process engineer in the manufacturing industry. Please feel free to adopt some of the tips. The method I used is known as the 5S, it was founded in Japan during the industrial revolution after the WWII. Popular organizations like Toyota have employed the 5S in their business models too to boost production. The most prominent benefits of the 5S include- an improvement in the safety standards protecting employees, increased ergonomic efficiency, reduction in the generation and processing of waste, increased productivity and better levels of job satisfaction among the employees.
The 5 S stands for:
- SORT: Here we get rid of unnecessary or obsolete items or features in our business. In a manufacturing setting, we remove every item that is not related to the actual manufacturing process, basically anything that isn’t used during the daily production process. In personal setting, it is about getting rid of the things that we don’t need or that don’t bring any value to our lives. During this decluttering process, we could go through each item and ask ourselves if keeping a certain item would really benefit our lives?
- SET: This is the part where tools are arranged so they can be easy to access, to use and or to retrieve. Labeling things is common practice at this stage. In manufacturing or personal setting, it is about assigning a place to everything and ensuring that everything returns at its place after use.
- SHINE: To sustain the effectiveness of the tools that have been used, they are regularly cleaned and kept in the best form, ready to be used again without any hindrance. Relating this in real life, it will mean regularly cleaning the areas of personal space. You will also notice that there would be less cleaning necessary because you got rid of the superficial.
- STANDARDIZE: In this phase, all the systems are checked to ensure that there are no lapses in the functioning capacities of the equipment’s. In the manufacturing scene, the supervisors and employees carry out this inspection. In our lives, we can relate this with how we feel when we reaffirm our achievements and reassess the working strategies to ensure they are still being employed in every aspect of our lives.
- SUSTAIN: To encourage this system, there are rewards presented to employees who diligently manage this system to ensure a full implementation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we did this in our lives as well? We can also indulge in self-care after a good cleaning. This will be the price for a good work done.
Making all these changes at once might sound scary; you should begin this change process gradually. By this I mean starting with one section at a time, one physical space at a time. Sometimes, one task at a time will be enough to gather positive ripple effects in your life. In his book- “The Power of Habits” Charles Duhhig made a connection between making our beds every morning with enjoying a more productive life, feeling better and healthier, and becoming better and managing a budget. He fondly called it –“A Keystone Habit”.
My experience has been exhilarating, I recently reorganized a bookshelf in my home and it felt very good. I feel so much peace every time I walk by it these days. This is the effect of just one small effort. Becoming proactive in changing your personal space to become more inspiring has a ripple effect in making your life better. If you ever start to feel down, try focusing on how to improve your outside spaces. This should open up your mind.
I strongly recommend this amazing book by Marie Kendo. The author is a popular Japanese organizing consultant. Her book- “The Magic of Tidying up” will make you realize why it is important to respect your personal belongings and why it is important to only keep items that make you very happy.